Pubdate: Thu, 11 Feb 2010
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Lee Enterprises
Author: Kevin Courtney
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Napa's experiment with medical marijuana dispensaries  should start
small, with a single, heavily regulated  clinic, the Napa City Council
said Tuesday night.

If the first dispensary works out, the city will  consider allowing a
second operation a year later.

Since these clinics will be dispensing cannabis under a  physician's
orders, the council said they belong in  medical office districts. The
city will prohibit  storefront operations.

Members of the dispensary's marijuana collective will  be encouraged
to grow their plants in warehouses in the  city's industrial zones,
rather than in other areas or  settings. Houses devoted to marijuana
cultivation will  be prohibited.

Qualified people will be able to grow enough plants for  personal use
on their residential properties, as  allowed by state law, but larger
neighborhood  operations will not be permitted, council members said.

Since deciding last summer that residents with valid  medical needs
should have a legal, local source for  marijuana, the council has been
waiting for staff to  draft regulations.

Some 50 people, including multiple potential dispensary  operators,
attended Tuesday's medical marijuana  workshop.

A half dozen speakers wanted the city to grant a permit  to more than
one dispensary, saying consumers deserved  a choice. Some said
limiting clinics to medical office  zones was too restrictive.

The five council members said they all supported tight  regulations
that made sure a clinic did not bother  neighbors or become a magnet
for crime.

Staff will be drafting rules for evaluating  applications, then
monitoring operations.

The city intends to have rules in place by June 1, but  this could
slip if the staff runs into complications  shaping an ordinance, City
Manager Dana Smith said.

Top staff members, including City Manager Mike Parness  and Police
Chief Rich Melton, have visited the highly  regarded Peace in Medicine
dispensary in Sebastopol to  see what a well-run pot clinic might look

Councilman Mark van Gorder said he was disturbed that  Peace in
Medicine's client list is larger than the  population of Sebastopol.
He would like the Napa clinic  to serve only locals, he said.

No one suggested a way that this would be possible, but  staff may be
able to garner information as to where  patients are coming from,
officials said.

Van Gorder said the dispensary's sized should  accommodate people with
serious illnesses for whom  marijuana can provide pain relief and
stimulate  appetite. He suggested that staff talk to the American
Cancer Society to get an estimate as to how many people  this might

Dr. Neil Watter, a physician, reminded the council that  it has no
jurisdiction over doctors who are the ones  who write recommendations
for medical marijuana.

Patients are able to get recommendations for many  medical complaints,
such as "situation anxiety," not  just life-ending illnesses, Watter

Medical marijuana recommendations are so easily  available that
current laws and regulations don't make  much sense, Watter said. It
would be more  straightforward for California to legalize marijuana
for everyone, he said.

Councilman Peter Mott worried that the city was  spending a lot of
effort drafting a medical marijuana  ordinance, yet state voters may
be asked to legalize  pot for recreational use at the November election.

"We're putting a lot of time and money out for  something that may be
moot in nine months," Mott said.

Napa City Attorney Michael Barrett said later that a  local ordinance
regulating sales might still be  worthwhile, depending on what form a
statewide  marijuana initiative takes.

The city's ordinance will meet the state's requirements  for marijuana
dispensaries, but will not make a clinic  legal under federal law,
Barrett said.

Federal law generally outlaws marijuana, although the  Obama
administration has said it will not crack down on  operations that
meet state standards.

Napa's ordinance may allow the dispensary to deliver  medical
marijuana to homebound patients, especially  those in hospice care. If
the local dispensary has  surplus cannabis, it will not be allowed to
export it  to other cities.

Once staff selects the best application to run a  dispensary, the
applicant will undergo public hearings  by the Planning Commission and
City Council.

The council agreed that applicants should pay fees that  cover the
city's cost of administration and monitoring. 
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